For two weeks I was the real me. A me without strategies. Without strategies for my strategies. No overbearing hopelessness and cynicism. No heavy footed gait. I felt the strength of my body and enjoyed it. The world and the people I love were vibrant and beautiful. I was kind, smart and–dare I say it?–even sexy. I could receive love because I could feel love for myself. I was dynamic. I could feel my life force. And yet it was all very serene–not a manic period of exuberance. I could feel everything and tolerate it: love, sadness, joy and anger. It was life. I was alive.

Then a few tiny setbacks: a night without enough sleep. A tiny rupture with a friend. An annoying interaction with–don’t laugh–a car dealership. And now I can feel the pull toward the familiar; toward the false self; toward that place where I spent my life hoping I would be found. Only it’s not there. It feels like I’m being pulled toward a home that has been bulldozed to the ground. And yet I can’t quite access the real me either. Not fully.

I am in limbo: not quite the real me but without the painful comfort of the false me that has been destroyed. I feel like I am grieving the loss of the familiar place but cannot fully embrace the new one. Home was helplessness and collapse. Home was a lonely and self-abusive place. But it was home.

Maybe this is simply the grief I need to go through to full embody the authentic me that I tried on for two weeks. Somehow it feels like I need to trust that I’m moving toward myself but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There is no turning back now.

How much pain there is in having needs that I alone cannot fulfill. I turn away from myself and become the emptiness I feel.

The very work that wearies my soul keeps me alive. What would become of me if I did not attend to the needs of others? When once this was a way of vicariously fulfilling myself now it is simply a way to keep my heart beating.

My legs move in circles on this exercise machine. I look out at the gym and realize that I do not feel connected to anyone or anything. I keep the emptiness confined to this corner of the universe. Indifference hurts and I do not wish to hurt the world in the way that it has hurt me. I realize that however misguided it may be, this narrative makes me the pathetic hero of a pathetic tale. It allows me to stay connected to some semblance of my humanity.

I am not above lying to myself. The hunger that defines my very being is both an essential truth and a miserable lie. The only thing I can say with certainty is that I am tired. Too tired for this day. Too tired to finish this entry.

A meeting of two loving and lonely hearts. Too sad for pretense or charm. Longing looks of gratitude. Warm teary eyes lock upon one another and look away. We see in one another the parts that have yet to come forward: the lightness and the rage. I catch a whiff of the future laughter and conflict that will transpire between our reactive—if self-aware—fiery souls. I will fall for this person (as is my lonely soul’s wont) and have to grieve the unrequited part of my love to enjoy the other parts. Perhaps the grief has already begun, even as they sit next to me on the couch.

I reach exhaustion. I hold back saying this because I know they have a prior engagement to which they must soon attend. I am simultaneously sated and empty. I walk her to her car. We embrace tightly. I can feel the mutual insatiability in our hug as well as the safety of knowing that we both recognize our insatiability.

I lack spirit. My life force is low. It has grown increasingly so lately. Even a potentially healing experience increases the emptiness since it serves to remind me that what I seek cannot be found within another. What a sad and saving grace it is to know that. A knowledge that has allowed me to hold onto the love that is in my life.

I look inside myself and realize that whatever it is I need from myself is not there right now. I turn to food. I binge. I limit myself to vegetables and hummus—my tiny victory for the day.

He lives in a moldy ruin. Only a sledgehammer could save him from it. A ruin formed by fear and paralysis. The sadness and loneliness is in the air but is never spoken.

I cannot bear the way this dilapidated fortress reflects my own passivity and solitude; how it terrifies me with the possibility that someday I will be the broken down ruin.

I hide in the bathroom and cry tears of sadness, fear and loneliness: the forbidden feelings and words dripping down my cheeks as I stare at the rotting walls.

She told me that my calm and gentle demeanor helped her feel less afraid and that she wanted these qualities for herself.

I wanted to tell her that I often struggled to get from one day to the next; that I felt every nook and cranny of pain and every breathless moment of beauty with relentless intensity.

Since it was not appropriate to share this within the context of our relationship, found my bearings and invited her to say more about her desire for peace and about her fantasy that I possessed it.

Afterwards I walked to my car with the familiar satisfaction of spending my day caring for others. It comforted me to remember that I was walking past other lonely souls distracting themselves with television shows in their homes.

I got home late, heated up some food and ate it at my coffee table while watching Deadwood. I lost myself in that universe that, for better and worse, reflected back to me the relentless beauty and pain in my heart and in the world.

I felt in equal measures gratitude for my life and sadness for the perpetual ache of my heart.

A handsome middle-aged woman sits at a table and places her meal in front of her. Her hair is wiry and raven black. Her countenance stern and yet somehow serene. She carries herself with a distantly warm dignity. I melt at the thought of being graced by her secret warmth.

Two slightly unruly children play at a table near her. Their father attempts to corral them with passive threats that he will take them home. The children’s excitement over the small birds in the dining area is untouched by the threats. I feel tenderly toward the children for being thrilled by something so simple and pure. The dignified woman spots the children, a fleeting smile passes across her face like a ray of sunshine stealing its way through the clouds.

A older olive skinned man wearing a flamboyant fedora sits at another table. Keeping him company is a woman with long and unkempt gray hair. Her back is turned to me and I imagine that her hair would make a perfect nest for the birds. The man’s smile is youthful and lovely; his laugh gentle and free. I am filled with admiration and hatred for the lightness of his heart. I know the hatred is but my heavy heart’s envy and I let it go.

An elderly woman sitting at a table to my left pulls from her backpack a speaker, a computer tablet and a water bottle. She looks detached–lost in her own world. The lines on her face are severe and she looks worn down by an unhappy life. She holds the tablet at her chest and beneath her nose. She occupies herself immediately by busily swiping her right index finger busily over the tablet. I feel sympathy for her and then guilt for feeling sympathy.

The gray-haired woman and the laughing man stand up to leave. The former approaches the detached woman and says, “Try not to hold the device so close to your heart”. The detached woman looks up, barely registering the existence of the meddlesome gray-haired woman, and mutters something under her breath. The gray-haired woman and her laughing man walk away. I feel the tension of universes colliding. I feel protective of the detached woman. I am cross that her world was infringed upon.

I realize that I see myself in the detached woman; long to be the laughing man; yearn for the attention of the dignified woman; and admire the purity of the children. I wonder if anyone in the dining area notices me; if I am worthy of being a target for someone’s projections. I wonder if knowing this would cut through the loneliness…